Today I want to talk about energy dense food as opposed to nutrient dense. I normally don’t talk calories here, but in this instance it will help to make sense of the energy denseness of junk foods. I am not saying don’t eat junk food either, no foods should be labelled good or bad, it is about moderation and defining what moderation actually means for you.
To me energy dense can be either junk food or food like nuts which has a high amount of calories in a small space. Nutrient dense is food with a lot of nutrition in a small amount of either space or as a calorie amount. Like broccoli has a lot of nutrition and low calorie or nuts are energy and nutrient dense as they have a lot of nutrition in a higher amount of calories. Hope that made sense!
Today I will discuss energy density in junk food and why when we think we don’t eat much we actually are eating a lot and this can and does contribute to weight gain. Junk food is also food that in eaten in-between meals not as a meal. (Generally!)
When you thinking dieting a lot of people think “ I’m going to be hungry, I won’t feel full, I won’t like the food etc… and this is why you don’t stay on your “diet” yes you lose weight, but do you keep it off?, has your mindset changed? Do you still crave that junk food?
Are you hungry like ALL THE TIME?
When you think junk food I think cakes, biscuits, lollies, chocolate bars, doughnuts, pastries, chips, soft drinks, potato chips, most of this food has a lot of calories but take up a small space you feel like you haven’t eaten much and due the high glycaemic load they are quickly digested and absorbed, (the takeaway food is a little kinder depending on what you get and are more filling usually)
There are a lot of theories of why we have gotten bigger- from gut microbiome, hormonal issues (caused by what?) genetics, chemicals and environmental attributes, GMOS, sugar, carbs, fat, lack of exercise, so it could be these things, or it might be none of them, they are mostly just theories. Or it might be we are actually eating more than what we require, eating too much or too often of the wrong things which may mean we eat more in calories than we think we do? Is it that simple?
What do you think?
Is junk food a lot of the reason why the population is getting bigger? We have access to it everywhere, it’s convenient. The big junk food companies are only keeping up with consumer demand, so obviously there is a huge demand for it, so it starts with us. Supply and demand, we buy less they make less, this may mean they go out of business, they make what the consumers do want or the prices go up!
So let’s take 100g of potato chips, if you take one of the big 200g packets of chips and have half that’s your 100g chips, and it’s very easy to eat this amount. Why? The right amount of crunch, salt and fat, enough to make you keep eating it for that hedonistic pleasure. How hard is it to stop at a small handful? Pretty hard! People get paid big money at these companies to come up with just the right amount of what we like, enough to hit our sweet spot, after all they are in business to make money. They know exactly what they are doing.
Firstly I will start with the average person (so some people more or less than this amount) requires approx. 8700kj (kilojoules) or roughly 2000 calories
So in that 100g chips you have 2200kj- this is ¼ of your daily intake and this isn’t a meal it’s just a snack!
A 50g normal bag of chips has 1100kj and the little tiny snack bags (19g) has 420kj. Can you see how this is a small amount of food, not that satisfying but has a lot of calories?
Take 4 timtams, another easy thing to have 4 of, yeah? So 4 of these bad boys weighs only 74g yet has 1600kj! This is the amount in a breakfast or lunch! This is nearly 1/5 of your daily intake in only 4 timtams.
What about a crispy crème doughnut? Well these are like eating clouds! lol
1 plain glazed crispy crème is just 57g and has 980kj….well easy to have 2 of them cause they taste good… so let say 1960kj- so just over ¼ of your daily intake.
1x 53g mars bar has 1020kj
I will add in a small big mac meal from Macca’s because…just because!
1 big mac, small fries, small coke and 1 ketchup has 3600kj (average intake 8700kj) Now this would be one meal for most so you would still be having your breakfast and lunch/dinner/snacks.
So as you see junk food has a lot of calories, but it feels like you are not eating much, they are mostly high glycaemic load so are broken down pretty quick and rapidly absorbed. And mostly not much nutrition in them.
So what is the takeaway (no pun intended) from this?
This is how I would describe the way I eat and yes I do consciously have to control my weight, when I eat too much I put on weight. It is working out your energy balance. You eat more than what your body requires you put on weight.
• If you have junk food be aware of the energy it contains and either eat less of it or less often. Eat it mindfully and without guilt. Enjoy it for what it is and eat it if you love it. This means don’t get a lower calorie/low fat/sugar free version if you won’t enjoy it as much as the real version (like ice cream!) savour it, make it last, relax…the calories in junk food adds up, you think you are not eating much but you are consuming energy dense foods.
• Eat lots of low calorie, energy dense foods like vegetables. For weight this helps you control your calories, the volume of the vegetables helps fill you as well as the water and fibre content. Not to mention you have phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
• The more satiated you are with nourishing wholefoods the less room you have for junk foods. But you can still put on weight with wholefoods if you are not in energy balance.
• Out of sight out of mind. If it is not in the house you cannot eat it. Understand not just that you are eating junk, but WHY? What is the emotion behind it? Are there unresolved issues?